Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry

Institute history

The history of the Czech macromolecular chemistry began in the early 1940s. Several research institutions in polymer chemistry were established within the next decade.

Two outstanding events had to happen to attract the necessary support of the then communistic government. The first was the implementation of the industrial production of polycaprolactam (Silon) and the second was the great success of the IUPAC International Symposium on Macromolecules which took place in Prague in 1957. As a fortunate consequence the Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry (IMC) within the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences was established in 1959.

The first director of the Institute was its founder Professor Otto Wichterle. The new building was finished in 1963 and belongs to the national cultural heritage today. From the very beginning, the Institute has attached equal importance to polymer chemistry and polymer physics, and it has held a balance between theoretical, basic and applied research. Consequently, the implementation of its research results was pursued into commercial practice. The most significant practical results were the alkaline polymerization of caprolactam and the development of hydrophilic polymers based on poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate). The latter, in particular, developed under the personal guidance of Professor Wichterle led to the production of soft contact lenses in the 1960s and to intraocular lenses in the 1980s, bringing fame to the Institute.

Despite restrictions imposed by the communist regime, the research at the Institute was never confined within national limits. The IMC has contributed to international cooperation and activities. Prague is the only city in the world that has played host to the important IUPAC International Symposia on Macromolecules the three times (1957, 1965 and 1992).

The Prague Meetings on Macromolecules (PMM), organized by the IMC every year since 1967 are well known in the polymer community and are enthusiastically attended.

The Institute of Macromolecular Chemistry, Czech Academy of Sciences strives to be an advanced, professionally reputable institution. The notable scientific results of the IMC researchers testify to the enduring quality of the Institutes professional work.

See also The first IUPAC MACRO Symposium, Prague 1957